NBC News Probes Instagram's 'Sex Censorship,' Sex Worker Discrimination

NBC News Probes Instagram's 'Sex Censorship,' Sex Worker Discrimination

LOS ANGELES — NBC News published a report today on the harms resulting from Instagram’s censorship of content related to sex and sexuality.

The report, penned by NBC News digital tech and culture reporter for Kat Tenbarge, features testimony from adult performers, commentators and activists, including Cherie DeVille and Abigail Mac.

In the article, DeVille shares how she “lives in perpetual fear of losing her 3.7 million Instagram followers.” 

“Every morning when I first log into my phone, even if it takes a moment to load Instagram, I have an adrenaline rush,” DeVille told NBC News. “Imagine that stress, imagine waking up every morning and wondering if you’ve lost your career.”

Abigail Mac told the reporter that her account has been suspended at least four times and getting it back has entailed "emailing Instagram 10 to 15 times every day for three to four weeks."

Tenbarge noted that for adult influencers, “platforms like Instagram have become ‘completely invaluable’ for driving traffic to personal websites where performers make money,” adding that many see the company’s moderation efforts as having become “more punitive and less predictable” since the passage of SESTA-FOSTA. 

Sex workers told Tenbarge that they “go to great lengths to stay within the boundaries of Instagram’s guidelines, keenly aware that their content could be struck and their accounts restricted at any moment,” but despite those efforts, Instagram has stlil removed their content and/or banned or suspended them.

The sex workers also told NBC News that Instagram’s guidelines are inconsistently enforced, especially when compared to content posted by mainstream celebrities.

A Meta spokesperson released a statement to NBC News saying, “We don’t want anyone to feel marginalized by our policies, including adult creators, but it’s important to consider our youngest users when we decide what we do and don’t allow on Instagram, as teens as young as 13 use our platform.”

Tenbarge, however, noted that “the moderation around sex has become so sweeping that a wide variety of accounts — not just porn performers — have faced restrictions that they view as unwarranted, from the business account of one of the largest pornography websites in the world, Pornhub, to sex educators and non-pornographic OnlyFans creators.”

NBC News reported that Instagram’s blanket anti-sex stance has also impacted sex education accounts.

To read “Instagram's Sex Censorship Sweeps Up Educators, Adult Stars and Sex Workers,” visit NBCNews.com.

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